Nefelibata (Portuguese) - "Cloud Walker"; One who lives in the clouds of their own imagination or dreams, one who does not obey conventions.
I have been painting and writing poetry since I was a child. I believe that inspiration is all around you, in the little things you come across daily. My work is a documentation of these simple, everyday experiences.
I have been a wandering entity all my life. Born to parents of South Asian heritage, I was raised in the Middle East. During Desert Storm, I was a war refugee. I taught English at international schools in India before relocating to Singapore with my family. I now call Australia home.
I am deeply inspired by the landscape of New South Wales, and my work over the past several years has been inspired by locales in and around Sydney. Before the pandemic, I used to paint en plein air on the South Coast, where I enjoyed creating art by the sea.
I live in a leafy suburb of Sydney where the mornings are filled with the calls of birds. On the balcony of my old apartment, I had regular visitors - seven cockatoos, a couple of mynahs, and a flock of chatty lorikeets. Over time, I was able to identify the cockatoos by their individual features. These birds became the subjects of my paintings.
Four years ago, we moved into our own place, and I converted the sunroom into an art studio. It overlooks a garden with camellia bushes. Here I made two friends - a pair of magpies with very distinctive personalities. I named the shy male Maniyan (gemstone in Sanskrit) and the assertive female Mandaakini (celestial river). I photographed and sketched the birds, and made several artist books, and altered books filled with paintings of these magpies - over 100 small artworks in different mediums.
These five paintings are part of an ongoing series titled Nefelibata, that I started at the beginning of 2020. I had just returned from a vacation in India with several bags of cloth leftover from my mum’s sewing projects. My culture celebrates color and I love anything that is bright and motley. I started using beautiful Indian prints and motifs in my artworks. In a symbolic sense, the magpies in my paintings are me - Australian, with a proud Indian background.
“Red summer” has prints cut out of blouses that I wore for many years. One of my magpies loves the pink azalea bush at the back of the garden. The flower printed scraps from my mum’s tunic looked a lot like the pretty blooms, and I have used them in “In azalea heaven”. The birds like to shelter beneath the camellia bushes when it rains. I have used blue silk scraps in “Rain on the horizon", and paisley prints, brown leaf motifs, and green printed bits, to convey an impression of rock formations and lichen, in “The secret in the crags”, and “Foraging in the feather moss”.
When I paint, I jump in with a rough idea of what I want the finished artwork to look like. Then I let it develop organically as I go. Often there are happy surprises. My favorite mediums are acrylics and gouache, and I work mostly on canvas textured paper unless I am preparing for an exhibition, in which case I work on stretched canvas. I collect all kinds of odds and ends - I have many boxes stashed in my studio filled with gift wrapping papers, denim, printed fabrics, lace, beads, feathers, and even bark, dried leaves, and flowers. Now, for birthdays, I get assorted junk from friends!
I try to create something every single day, however small. Art is my source of fulfillment. I believe it can bring great joy and healing - I volunteered for many years as a leisure therapist at a hospital, and a home for residents with dementia, helping the elderly create art.
I am very fortunate to have a supportive partner, who, like my wonderful parents did when I was young, nurtures and encourages my dreams. For that, I give infinite thanks.
Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is an Indian-Australian artist, poet, and pianist, who serves as a chief editor for Authora Australis. She holds a Masters in English and is a member of The North Shore Poetry Project. Her recent artworks have been showcased in The International Zine Project, 3 AM Magazine, Parentheses, and Oyster River Pages, and on the covers of The Amsterdam Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, e Rat’s Ass Review, Ang(st) the Body Zine, and elsewhere. She received four Best of the Net nominations in 2021. She lives and works in Sydney on the land of the Ku-ring-gai People of the Eora Nation.